Whorf, Benjamin Lee

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Whorf, Benjamin Lee

(hwôrf), 1897–1941, American linguist and anthropologist, b. Winthrop, Mass. Although he was trained in chemical engineering and worked for an insurance company, Whorf made substantial contributions to Mayan and Aztec linguisticslinguistics,
scientific study of language, covering the structure (morphology and syntax; see grammar), sounds (phonology), and meaning (semantics), as well as the history of the relations of languages to each other and the cultural place of language in human behavior.
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. He collaborated with Edward SapirSapir, Edward
, 1884–1939, American linguist and anthropologist, b. Pomerania. Sapir was brought to the United States in 1889. After teaching at the Univ. of California and the Univ.
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 at Yale Univ. in anthropological linguistics, and helped to develop the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis. Also known as the linguistic relativity principle, the theory argues against the view that the categories and distinctions of any given language are natural and given by external reality. Instead, it posits language as a finite array of formal (lexical and grammatical) categories that group an infinite variety of experiences into usable classes, vary across cultures, and, as a guide to the interpretation of experiences, influence thought.


See Whorf's selected writings, Language, Thought, and Reality (1959).

Whorf, Benjamin Lee


Born Apr. 24, 1897, in Winthrop, Mass.; died July 26, 1941, in Wethersfield, Conn. American linguist and anthropologist.

Whorf graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1918 as a chemical engineer. In 1926 he began to study the relationship between language and thought, as well as the American Indian and Semitic languages. His early works dealt with the decipherment and linguistic interpretation of the Maya writing system, which in his innovative view was based partly on a phonetic principle. Under the influence of E. Sapir and as a result of his own studies of the Uto-Aztecan languages (especially Hopi), Whorf formulated a hypothesis of linguistic relativity that became known as the Whorfian hypothesis. Whorf contributed to the theory of grammatical categories in that he was the first to differentiate overt and covert categories in language.


The Phonetic Value of Certain Characters in Maya Writing. Cambridge, Mass., 1933.
Language, Thought, and Reality, 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass., 1966.


Zvegintsev, V. A. “Teoretiko-lingvisticheskie predposylki gipotezy Sepira-Uorfa.” In the collection Novoe v lingvistike, fasc. 1. Moscow, 1960.

Whorf, Benjamin Lee

(1897–1941) linguist, chemical engineer; born in Winthrop, Mass. After receiving his B.S. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1918), he began a lucrative lifelong career at the Hartford Fire Insurance Company (1919–41), where he specialized in fire hazards and prevention. In 1925 he renewed a childhood interest in Central America and in 1930 he traveled to Mexico. In 1931 he enrolled in Edward Sapir's American Indian linguistics course at Yale University. Through his work in comparative linguistics in studies of Hebrew, Mayan, Aztec, and Hopi languages and cultures, he developed the "Whorf-Sapir hypothesis"—that the grammatical structure of a language affects the culture of its speakers by conditioning the ways in which they think.
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The quotation belonging to Benjamin Lee Whorf is very eloquent in this context: "You might think that "tree" means the same thing, everywhere and to everybody.
Nonetheless, the idea that the thinking is dependent on language and that the language influences our understanding of the world around us was developed by and is usually associated with Benjamin Lee Whorf.
Tambien lo ubicamos como un proceso determinado por la cultura en los terminos de Whorf (1956) y Sapir (1985), quienes mostraron con sus trabajos etnograficos que las ideas de materia, informacion y energia, asi como muchas otras, estan definidas por la cultura y que no son intuiciones o cuestiones obvias para el entendimiento, por lo cual es muy complicado determinar las categorias de cognicion humana sin considerar el contexto y el ambiente cultural, de aqui la idea de codigo cultural (Eco, 1975).
Whorf (1897-1941) came to linguistics from chemical engineering and also worked as a fire prevention inspector and a fire insurance executive (p.
It is not simply that Sapir was more cautious in his speculation than Whorf: Sapir was vigorously speculative but at the same time far more circumspect than Whorf in his estimate of the rule of language in the formation of ideas.
El libro se encuentra dividido en dos grandes partes que llevan por titulo <<tradicion analitica>> y <<hermeneutas y disidentes>>; al final se presenta un apendice que relaciona la hipotesis del lenguaje del pensamiento de Fodor con el relativismo linguistico de Whorf.
Furthermore, in its more radical sense, language itself is, as Benjamin Lee Whorf told us, a vehicle through which our eyes open to those phenomena that matter (Whorf, 1956).
According to the noted scholar Benjamin Whorf Language shapes thoughts and emotions, determining one's perception of reality.
Whorf, a broadcaster, producer, and writer, draws on about 70 taped interviews he recorded for a radio series at WJR in Detroit in the mid-1970s for this volume profiling 39 composers of popular song.
It once seemed simpler to scholars like Sapir (1949) and Whorf (Whorf, Carroll, & Chase, 1998); culture directly shaped language and thinking.
Thus onwards to Ferdinand de Saussure and Benjamin Whorf.